KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — What do your back porch, living room, and bathroom have in common? Your baby could be born in any of them. Over the last year because of the pandemic some parents looked into home births instead of hospital delivery.
For most moms and dads, having a photographer capture a birth in 2020, wasn’t possible. Hospital visitation restrictions wouldn’t allow for it. For Jamie Cunningham and her wife, though, photos of the birth capture their 2020.
“I just feel so much safer at home right now,” Cunningham said.
At home, Cunningham gave birth. It was May and outside her window Coronavirus had just shut down businesses. Mask mandates were popping up. Hospitals across the country were implementing visitation limits and new protocols.
“I was certainly, certainly happy to have made that decision and it really did, like I felt more empowered that we had chosen a home birth, especially amid a pandemic,” Cunningham explained.
Cunningham worked with Roots and Wings in Knoxville. A midwife oversaw the birth.
“Having a baby is often a very fun and exciting time and people really look forward to it, but a lot of the hospital protocols are making it not feel so fun and exciting, and so I think people are starting to look into other ways that they can have a safe delivery,” Rebekah Mustaleski, with Roots and Wings, said.
Yes, midwives still exist and it’s probably not what you’re picturing.
“I think sometimes when people think of this they think old school,” Mustaleski said. “When they come into a birth they have this like one little bag that they bring with them and we bring so much more than that now. The modern day midwife is trained in all of those same traditional techniques that midwives in years past are known for, that natural mindset about delivery and birth, but we also have the benefit of modern medicine.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, home births are associated with a higher rate of infant death. The midwife said her skills can reduce the risk. A CDC study shows about 1% of births in America happen at home. Because of the pandemic, Mustaleski said that number could go up.
“Our belief is that birth is a normal physiological process, that your body is made to be pregnant and carry a baby and deliver a baby and that your baby is made to be born, so we feel like our job is just to monitor that process,” Mustaleski explained.
They did monitor Cunningham’s process along with her mom, wife, aunt, dad, in laws, and two of her other children.
“We asked everybody who we wanted to be on our support team, we asked everybody to kind of isolate two weeks before my due date and then I ended up going six days past my due date,” Cunningham explained.
One more person was in the room, too. The photographer who captured the photos also witnessed this birth.
“Pandemic or not, I think home birth is really something that people should give more thought to just because you have more autonomy,” Cunningham said.
Doctors say home birth should only be an option for low risk pregnancies and not multiples. Both the midwife and doctors agree being well informed before you make this decision is important.